Key Approaches to Incentivizing Project Teams Effectively

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Putting Things into Perspective

Great goals need great teams to be achieved. You can’t go it alone when it comes to attaining sustainable and far-reaching change. Now, that does not take anything away from strong leaders and leadership. But strong leadership is always rooted in concerted efforts owned and shaped by project teams. Organizations need to create a work environment in which people have incentives to succeed, one that puts faith in their professionalism and builds a sense of camaraderie that is a must for achieving ultimate success.

In this article, I am sharing my take on some of the best practices in creating incentives for project teams in public agencies. These incentives put teams in a great position to be effective. I have consciously avoided concentrating on the material or financial incentives, which are fairly straightforward to adopt (as long as they are managed in an equitable and transparent manner). Instead, my focus is on the intangible benefits team members can derive from a set of purposeful actions supported and driven by their organizations.

  • Create A Level Playing Field

This is a foundational step. None of the other measures make much sense if the project team members feel they are treated equally or, at worst, face workplace discrimination. People don’t like to work in an organization where, as it were, some are more equal than others.

Equal opportunities, rules and procedures applying to all, healthy competition, and prevention of favoritism are all important aspects of creating a fair and just work environment. They help establish conditions for the project teams to be genuinely encouraged to thrive and succeed.

Managers often underestimate the importance of delegation. The days of micromanagement and perfectionism have long given way to teamwork and iterative learning. Prudent and effective managers are extremely good at delegating tasks to different team members.

Delegation thus becomes both an efficient use of resources and a judicious staff development strategy. It creates ample space for team members to test themselves, seek on-the-job and mentoring opportunities, and proactively engage with colleagues and other stakeholders.

  • Allow Space for Innovation

Organizations that create space for and encourage innovation are usually ahead of the curve. Innovation might be fraught with risks. Risk-averse organizations try to stick to well-tested routines. But they often forget about a bigger risk–the risk of becoming irrelevant or obsolete in today’s fast-changing and technology-driven environment.

Innovation also needs support genuinely. Employees who feel they are fully engaged in their work are more innovative, research suggests. Thus, the leadership of an organization must be ready for failure, and it should institute mechanisms for learning from those failures. All the good things come to those who try!

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  • Be Transparent and Accountable

Transparency and accountability have become commonplace buzzwords in the public sector. Don’t turn them into overused cliches. Lead by example to initiate and uphold high moral and ethical standards. Walk the walk, as they say. This will be a great incentive for all other team members to emulate your actions. Make things transparent and accountable.

This is not to say all decisions need to be based on absolute consensus. At times, managers have to make executive decisions in the interests of time and efficiency. But they can’t make them on the sly. If you want your team members to put stock in your words, consult people, keep them informed, and explain the rationale for your decisions.

  • Be Who You Are

No matter how senior your position is within your organization, don’t forget that you are just as human as anyone else. Your team members are no more prone to err as you are. So, err on the side of caution and be forthcoming about your setbacks or mistakes. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong.

This will be a great incentive for your team members to be candid and forthright on their part. You can thus establish the kind of rapport with your team that fosters ingenuity and an inspiring organizational culture. Socialize with your team members and help them out when you can. Remember that straight shooters always make a great team.

  • Support Personal and Professional Development

For many people, current jobs are as important as opportunities for professional development. Organizations should not treat professional development plans as just pro forma HR actions. Those who are seriously interested in building long-term careers seek training and development opportunities on a regular basis.

Successful and effective organizations normally have generous and well-structured staff development plans. They also have dedicated funds to support the educational and career goals of their teams. Some go even further and support post-graduate or graduate programs of their staff. Of course, these measures vary from agency to agency. The takeaway is that organizations need to do it in a structured and systematic manner.

  • Ask For Feedback On Own Performance

Asking for and providing is a major feature of a learning organization. People in such organizations feel empowered and incentivized to benefit from organizational feedback loops in a constructive fashion.

Project team members need to be proactive about soliciting feedback. If asked for one, take time to provide an honest and fact-based assessment that will help your colleague achieve more. Research shows that unbiased feedback helps organizations both improve and transform.

Summary

For organizations seeking excellence, employing people with the right motivation matters. What happens in the workplace often shape the right motivations. The agencies that take it seriously are intentional about developing, introducing, and institutionalizing a number of incentives that make their project teams more effective.

I have reviewed some of the key approaches to incentivizing project teams effectively. Research has found that incentives can play a crucial role in advancing organizational goals and objectives. Conversely, demotivated staff are more likely to become cynical than go beyond what’s business as usual. Organizational success takes more than just retaining people in their comfort zones. Smart incentives help both entities and individuals push the envelope and make the most of their untapped potential.